There was a time when a very high premium was placed on good manners and etiquette. So much so that children were sent to schools to learn the most polite way to interact with people on a daily basis.
That’s the era the Mrs. Mannerly of Jeffrey Hatcher’s semi-autobiographical one-act comedy comes from, and it’s an era she sees disappearing before her eyes.
The Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., hosts “Mrs. Mannerly” Jan. 26 through Feb. 21. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. Wednesday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s a comedy with meaning,” said director Edith Weiss. “It’s been called a coming of an age story, but it’s also a passing of an age story.”
The year is 1967, and Mrs. Mannerly (Leslie O’Carroll) is still teaching her etiquette class to students like young Jeffrey Hatcher (Graham Ward). Hatcher is a boy drawn to fictional characters and mysteries, and discovers more than a few mysteries in his teacher.
“She’s a throwback to an era where politeness was so important, and wants to pass that knowledge on,” O’Carroll said. “The time she finds herself in during the play, with Vietnam and the changes in women’s rights, make her a kind of dinosaur.”
Perhaps Mannerly’s biggest surprise is her wit and humor, which shines throughout the story.
“It’s just so much fun,” Ward said. “I have a very sarcastic, sardonic sense of humor, and this show really gets at that.”
Both O’Carroll and Ward researched some of the pop culture references that are woven throughout the script, and O’Carroll did some investigating of Emily Post’s work to familiarize herself with the etiquette she teaches.
“The funny thing is that there are quite a few racist things built into the manners of the time,” Weiss said. “The script doesn’t avoid commenting on them, and the time they’re coming from.”
Ward describes the play’s tone as kindhearted mocking of a simpler time, and he and O’Carroll credit Hatcher’s writing it making the show supremely enjoyable.
“I love the script, and how it allows me to have these actors interacting with each other,” Weiss said. “In a way, this is really Mannerly’s coming of age story.”
For more information, call 720-898-7200 or visit ww.arvadacenter.org.